Teacher’s Guide to Free and Independent State


Welcome to the teacher’s guide to the Tennessee History for Kids booklet Free and Independent State.

Rather than buying a single classroom set, please consider buying one for every student. TN History for Kids sells these booklets for $2.50 and prints them on non-glossy paper because we want students to write in their booklets and keep them.

Please do NOT copy the booklets. That is a violation of our copyright and makes it difficult for us to continue to exist. The reason we sell them for only $2 is so teachers will not be tempted to copy the booklets.

If you would like the answers to the quiz questions in the booklet, please email me at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org and tell him your name and the school at which you teach.


Chapter One


Click here to see the video “Happy Times at Fort Loudoun.”

If you live in the sector between Knoxville and Chattanooga, do try to make a trip to Fort Loudoun State Historical Park–especially on a day in which a living history event is taking place there. The staff is pretty wonderful and knowledgeable. While in the area, also check out the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, which was completely rebuilt in 2018. Tell Charlie that History Bill sent you!

Also, it is interesting that there has never been an archaeological dig on the site of the Fort Loudoun Massacre. Perhaps there will be one some day, and archaeologists will find remnants of British army uniforms.


Chapter Two


Thomas “Big Foot” Spencer is one of the most fascinating characters in Tennessee history, and there are many first-person stories about him.

The rock shown on page 8 is actually along I-40, and it really should be the site of a state park, or at least a trail. As you head west and approach the Cumberland County community of Crab Orchard, you can see it high on the mountain on the right. (See photo to the right for the view FROM Spencer’s Rock.)


Chapter Three

The Donelson Party journal still exists, and transcripts of it can be easily found on the internet. Click here to be taken to the TN State Library and Archives photo showing it.

In recent years historian Paul Clements has proven that parts of the journal were, in fact, written by Colonel Donelson, while other parts were written a generation later by his son, who was also on the journey. So parts of the journal were probably forged. However, all of it is still a primary source.

Matthew Rhea 1832 map

If you live in northeast Tennessee, a great place to learn more about the Donelson journey is at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

Finally, the map shown on page 15, and on the left, is fascinating to say the least. The original map was created by Matthew Rhea in 1832; it is part of a much larger map of the entire state. However, the TN State Library and Archives does not know who hand wrote the barriers that you see marked along the map (Suck, Boiling Pot, Skillet, etc.) These navigational barriers were buried forever when the Tennessee Electric Power Company built Hales Bar Dam in the early 1900s, but this map shows exactly where they were.


Chapter Four


If you click on the map to the right, you can see it better than you can on page 18. To me, the most interesting thing about this map is how Sycamore Shoals is nearly directly NORTH of Kings Mountain. Normally, we think of South Carolina as east of Tennessee… but in fact, parts of South Carolina are west of parts of Tennessee.

Shelving Rock
THFK photo

Shelving Rock, shown on page 19, sits alongside state highway 143, just south of the town of Roan Mountain. I have to admit that I drove right past it the first time without realizing what it was.

There is a point about the Battle of Kings Mountain which sounds made up, but apparently isn’t. Major Patrick Ferguson traveled with two girlfriends, one of which was called Virginia Sal and the other Virginia Paul. This information apparently came from the interviews of historian Lyman Draper, and it is mentioned several times in this video shown at the Kings Mountain National Battlefield.

For more information about Kings Mountain, I recommend this book of first-person accounts of the battle.


Chapter Five


The Lost State of Franklin” is such a unique story in American history that there are many documentaries about it, including a segment from the recent series “How the States Got Their Shapes.”

Click here for our virtual tour of the Lost State of Franklin.


Sidebar: “A Tennessean in Philadelphia”


Click here for more information about Tennessee’s connections to the important events that happened in Independence Hall.

One point I would like to add about William Blount is that there is a statue of him at Signers Hall at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Blount is well known in Tennessee history, but the docent I met at the National Constitution Center that day told me that no one had ever asked about him. Apparently William Blount kept pretty quiet during the Constitutional Convention.


Chapter Six


Here is the map on page 31. This map leads to two questions: First of all, if you were a U.S. Congressman in 1796, would YOU have voted to allow Tennessee to become a state? I probably wouldn’t have. After all, Tennessee hardly looked ready for statehood.

Also, does the fact that Tennessee became a state so early, when its map looked like that, indicate that there was ALREADY an assumption that the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians were going to be sent west? It does make you wonder.


Chapter Seven


Click here for a virtual tour of the battlefield of New Orleans.

The area all around Chalmette National Military Park was badly flooded in 2005 as a result of Hurricane Katrina. There is a neighborhood just across the highway from the battlefield that contains roads named for military leaders from Tennessee. When I visited to take the photos shown in this chapter, many of them were still abandoned because of flood damage.


Chapter Eight


I have many “promotional articles” from old Tennessee newspapers about West Tennessee towns that were being formed in the 1820s.

I’ve uploaded three of them on this website–one for Memphis, one for Somerville (originally spelled with two m’s), and one for Dresden.

The quality of some of them isn’t great. But remember: These are saved from microfilm! It is remarkable that the quality is as good as it is.

Just click on them to make them larger.

Also, I strongly recommend purchasing a copy of David Crockett’s autobiography. However, assuming you can’t, click here to read a transcript of it online.


Chapter Nine


In 2018, I wrote and self published an entire book about what newspaper advertisements prove about the institution of slavery in Tennessee. Called Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls, the book is not officially connected to Tennessee History for Kids. Although I have spoken about the book to many civic groups and teacher conferences, I have heard mixed opinions about whether it is appropriate for eighth grade readers or not. Among other things, the book contains detailed data from no less than 906 different runaway slave ads which were published in Tennessee newspapers between 1793 and 1864.

In any case, click here to read more about this book and find out how to get a copy.

Click here to read original issues of The Emancipator.

And click here to see the half-hour long KidsInar which covers some of this same material.


THFK photo

Sidebar: Ironmonger Changes his Mind


The Great Western Furnace isn’t the only abandoned iron furnace in Tennessee, not hardly. Others include the Bear Spring Furnace, the Lee and Gould Furnace, the Brownsport Furnace and the Newlees Iron Furnace. Shown on the left is a twin furnace known as the Lime Kiln furnace in Erin (Houston County).

Chapter 10


We went to San Antonio and did a Tennessee History for Kids video about the Alamo. Click here to see it.


Chapter 11


Click here for a virtual tour of Red Clay State Historic Park and here for a tour of New Echota State Park, which is in Georgia.


Chapter 12


In the course of researching the book on slavery, I frequently ran into advertisements about stagecoach lines, and it is from those advertisements that Chapter 12 came about.

If you click on the uploaded ads, you should be able to read them. The one quoted on page 61 is on the right.

I wrote a column about the railroad that climbs the Cumberland Plateau between Cowan and Sewanee which sort of picks up where this chapter leaves off. Click here to read it.


Chapter 13

You can find more information about the Battle of Shiloh on our virtual tour, here.

I strongly recommend going to the Shiloh National Military Park. If you are fortunate enough to do so, try going in early April, when there are events associated with the anniversary of the battle.

Finally, click on the image on the right to read the New York Times story about the random reunion between Generals Prentiss and Shelby years after the Battle of Shiloh.


Chapter 14


In July 2021, after years of protests and a long series of public meetings about the matter, the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest shown at the top of page 71 was taken down and moved to the Tennessee State Museum.

For more information on Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Civil War exploits, click here for a tour of Fort Donelson, here for a tour of Johnsonville/Forrest State Parks and here for a tour of Fort Pillow.


Chapter 15


The photo on pages 78-79 is truly remarkable. Click on the image on the left to make it much larger and to explore it. I believe (and I am not 100% certain about this) that the road in the valley between the hills is about where present-day 8th Avenue is. The building in the distance may be atop what is now known as Reservoir Hill.

Also make note of the crude structures strewn about which look like tents made of scrap wood. Considering this photo was taken in December, we can assume that these were horribly uncomfortable places in which to spend the night.

You will find much of the same text on the Tennessee History for Kids tour “in search of the Battle of Nashville,” here. However, you will find some images that you will not find in the booklet.



Chapter 16


We weren’t able to do the Tennessee State Library and Archives image on page 85 justice. Click on the right to see a much larger version of it.

An interesting point about Sam Watkins: He had fallen into obscurity before Ken Burns 1991 Civil War public television miniseries. As a result of that miniseries, interest in and knowledge of Watkins increased, and his memoirs were reprinted again.

Mt. Zion Cemetery
THFK photo


I highly recommend a visit to Zion Cemetery in Maury County. Not only is Sam Watkins buried there, but so are 15 veterans of the Revolutionary War.


Chapter 17


Click here to see the original copy of the Tennessee Constitution of 1870.